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Facebook launches ‘Lite’ Android app for low end smartphones

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Facebook has launched Facebook Lite, a simplified version of its mobile website as a standalone Android app, reports Techcrunch. The networking platform had earlier rolled out its ‘Facebook Lite’ website in 2009, specifically designed for low bandwidth usage in emerging markets.

The app is currently available only in Bangladesh, Nepal, South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Consequently, we had to sideload the apk to test on our devices and users wanting to try it out can find it here. The app is a lightweight install at just 252KB in size and works on Android versions 2.2 and above. In contrast Facebook’s primary app, which doesn’t allow users to chat, is over 25MB in size and its companion messenger app is over 16MB in size.

The ‘Lite’ app itself features standard smartphone features like push notifications, camera integration and chats, although the app is based on Facebook’s feature phone client Snaptu. The interface is pretty basic, but allows for all standard Facebook functions and felt similar to its mobile website, although the mobile website functioned far smoother on the OnePlus One we tested on.

Interestingly, while the web version (mobile and desktop) and the standard Facebook app displayed updates from publications and celebrities followed, pages ‘liked’ etc., along with those of friends, the Lite app seemed to display a lot more updates made by friends and fewer of other updates. This could be a sync problem, but could also be a measure to save on bandwidth, as other than updates from friends most updates are links which users with low bandwidth wouldn’t want to click anyway.

The app is clearly targeted for users with low bandwidths and/or low end Android phones and seems to do its job pretty well. The app rating on the app store stands at 4.6 with nearly a 1000 users reviewing the app and early reviews seem generally positive.

Note that last month, Facebook had said its user base in India has grown to 112 million monthly active users (MAUs) across desktops & mobile devices as of September 30, 2014. Of this, about 90% of the users or about 99 million use mobile devices to access the social networking site. Overall Facebook saw 52 million users from the country access it on a daily basis, with about 45 million of them doing so through their mobile phones.

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